NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Preseason Poll: 1-10
By Todd McElwee
Our poll continues with the heavy hitters … the top 10.
No. 10 Notre Dame
2011 Record: 11-3
Conference: Big East
Head Coach: Kevin Corrigan
Defense is always the word in South Bend. Few teams can put the lid on opposing offenses like the Irish, who once again will be among the nation's stingiest outfits.
Syracuse was the only team to hit double digits against Notre Dame last season. The Fighting Irish were second in the country in both scoring defense, at 6.57 goals per game, and man-down defense, killing off 81.5 percent of their penalties.
At the center of it all is junior goaltender John Kemp. The Georgetown Prep alumnus was second in the nation in goals against at 6.61 per game. He finished fourth in save percentage at 60.2.
Senior Kevin Randall started all 14 contests last season and is the Irish's premier defenseman. At X, the Irish will feature sophomore Liam O'Connor, who won 55.3 percent of his draws last season, while scooping up 41 ground balls.
Sean Rogers, a senior attackman, tied for the team lead in points last season with 25 (18 goals, seven assists). He'll be joined by sophomore Westy Hopkins (18 goals) and junior Ryan Foley (eight goals, four assists).
Notre Dame's biggest gun at midfield is senior Max Pfeifer (nine goals, eight assists).
No. 9 North Carolina
2011 Record: 10-6
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Head Coach: Joe Breschi
The Tar Heels are a perennial underachiever. Like ACC cohort Maryland, North Carolina always flames out when it matters most. It's been 21 years since a national title and 19 since a Final Four; Duke, Maryland and Virginia have made a combined 27 semifinals during the stretch.
Key to getting the Tar Heels back to the promised land will be sophomore attackman Nicky Galasso. One of the nation's premier distributors, he finished fourth in the country with 32 assists and led UNC in points with 56 last year.
One of Galasso's favorite targets will be senior Thomas Wood (21 goals, 13 assists).
Gilman's Marcus Holman, a junior, is a weapon at midfield, finishing with 23 goals and five assists in 2011. Senior Jimmy Dunster (13 goals, eight assists) and sophomore Pat Foster (15 goals, two assists) will also be players. Foster graduated from Boys' Latin. His classmate R.G. Keenan, another Laker, won 60 percent of his faceoffs last year.
Charlie McComas, another, you guessed it, Boys' Latin product, is one of the ACC's premier defenders. Junior Steven Rastivo played sparingly in net last year.
No. 8 Villanova
2011 Record: 11-5
Conference: Big East
Head Coach: Michael Corrado
Hey, don't I know you? Villanova is going to look remarkably similar to the team that finished at 11-5 and fell at Denver during the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
All six offensive starters return.
Senior Kevin Cunningham and juniors Jack Rice, tabbed as the Big East's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and Will Casertano form one of the best frontlines in Division I. Rice had a team-best 34 goals to go along with three assists and was eighth in shooting percentage at nearly 45 percent. Cunningham paced the team in scoring with 45 points (24 points, 21 goals). Casertano had 18 goals and 17 assists.
St. Mary's graduate Matt Bell, a senior who posted 18 goals and 11 assists last year, mans the midfield. Classmate Michael Vigilante (14 goals, nine assists) and junior Nick Doherty (12 goals, 12 assists) were also stalwarts. C.J. Small (19 goals, seven assists) will also contribute.
Senior Nolan Vihlen finished in the top 20 in faceoffs taking 54.8 percent of his draws. Senior Chris Creighton is a premier defenseman. Goaltender Bill Hurley had an 8.33 goals-against average, while stopping 48 percent of opposing offerings.
No. 7 Maryland
2011 Record: 13-5
Head Coach: John Tillman
It's been 37 long years since the Terps last claimed a national title. After defeating North Carolina, No. 1 Syracuse and defending champion Duke, Maryland fell to hated neighbor Virginia, 9-7, during the NCAA finals, extending their championship drought. Is this finally the year?
Graduation hit the Terps hardest at attack. Leading scorers Ryan Young (20 goals, 28 assists) and Grant Catalino (31 goals, 11 assists) are gone. Catalino scored the overtime winner against the Orange. Back to pace the attack is third-leading scorer Owen Blye (19 goals, 14 assists).
The Terps will be stocked at middie, returning their top-four producers at the position. Senior Joe Cummings is a Loyola Blakefield alumnus and finished with 27 goals and five assists. Junior John Haus, a Calvert Hall product, had 14 goals and an alike number of helpers. Seniors Drew Snider and Jake Bernhardt had 20 and 18 points respectively. Curtis Holmes finished seventh in faceoff wins at 62.6 percent.
As a redshirt freshman, Niko Amato had a 6.78 goals-against average and was seventh nationally in save percentage at 58.3.
With seven Under-Armour All-Americans, Tillman has brought in one the nation's top recruiting classes. Attackman Jay Carlson (St. Paul's) and middie Bobby Gribbin (Georgetown Prep) are local products.
No. 6 Syracuse
2011 Record: 15-2
Conference: Big East
Head Coach: John Desko
Down seven starters, the Orange are reloading. Gone are leading scorer Stephen Keogh, William C. Schmeisser defenseman of the year John Lade and goaltender John Galloway. But this is Syracuse, and as always, the Orange are not to be overlooked.
Junior attacker/midfielder JoJo Marasco wears 22 and lives up to the historic number's prolific legacy. He tied Keogh for the team lead in points last season with 41 (23 goals, 18 assists). Tommy Palasek had 17 goals and 18 assists. Injured for much of last year, senior Tim Desko, the coach's son, had 16 goals and three assists during just 10 games.
Syracuse will be greenest at the midfield. Redshirt junior Steve Ianzito is the top returning producer with five goals and three assists.
Senior Brian Megill is the Orange's most seasoned defensemen. Goaltender is still up in the air.
No. 5 Duke
2011 Record: 14-6
Head Coach: John Danowski
One could almost pencil in Duke for Championship Weekend. The Blue Devils have advanced to five consecutive Final Fours and with eight starters returning, look to have the stuff to make six in a row.
Sophomore attackmen Jordan Wolf and Christian Walsh were Duke's second- and third-leading scorers last season. Wolf had 31 goals and a team-best 20 assists, while Walsh, who attended Boys' Latin, finished with 21 goals and 13 helpers.
David Lawson, a junior, contributed 32 points (23 goals, nine assists) from the midfield, and will run with Robert Rotanz (23 goals, five assists) as well as Justin Turri (14 goals, 11 assists). LSM C.J. Costabile, who will never have to pay for dinner in Durham after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of the 2010 national title game, is one of the nation's most dynamic talents, with 95 ground balls and a faceoff win percentage of 52.
Junior Dan Wigrizer had a 9.2 goals-against average and stopped 55 percent of shots. Senior Michael Manley anchors the defense.
No. 4 Cornell
2011 Record: 14-3
Conference: Ivy League
Head Coach: Ben DeLuca
Any discussion concerning the Big Red begins with the nation's leading scorer, senior attackman Rob Pannell. Averaging a Division I-best 5.24 points per game, nearly half a goal better than Drexel's Scott Perri, he netted 42 goals while dishing out a nation-high 47 assists. He also had 34 ground balls.
Pannell is Cornell's best option, but he isn't the Big Red's lone gun. Junior Steve Mock, who scored 40 goals last seaon, is another threat at attack.
Roy Lang and Mike O'Neil were dangerous from the midfield, producing 36 points (27 goals, nine assists) and 17 points (13 goals, four assists) respectively. Senior Chris Langston (eight goals, seven assists) is another option.
Defensemen Jason Noble and Mike Bronzino led Cornell in ground balls, with 71 and 57 collected respectively. Goaltender A.J. Flore allowed 8.31 goals per game, stopping half of the attempts that flew his way.
A national-title favorite, Cornell failed to meet expectations last season, falling to Virginia, 13-9, during the NCAA quarters. The Big Red return seven starters.
No. 3 Denver
2011 Record: 15-3
Conference: Eastern Collegiate Athletic
Head Coach: Bill Tierney
Legendary head coach Bill Tierney and the Pioneers crashed the party last season, becoming the first school west of the Mississippi to play on Championship Weekend. Don't be surprised to see Denver at Gillette Stadium this May.
Denver outscored opponents, 224-156, and welcomes back four of its five most prolific scorers.
Senior attackmen Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos are virtually unstoppable. Matthews had 46 goals and 24 assists last season, while Demopoulos added 30 goals and 28 assists.
Up top, junior Cameron Flint had 27 goals and 11 assists, while sophomore Jeremy Noble had 18 goals and 16 helpers. Noble also had 82 ground balls. Junior Chase Carraro took 58.2 percent of his faceoffs.
Defensively, the Pioneers are young, but do benefit from having an experienced goalie in sophomore Jamie Fuss (8.55 goals-against average and a 56 save percentage).
No. 2 Johns Hopkins
2011 Record: 13-3
Head Coach: Dave Pietramala
Balance defines Hopkins. With talented options across the pitch, the Blue Jays have the goods to go after their 10th national title.
Hopkins was the only one of the poll's top 10 outfits that ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense and defense last year. The Blue Jays were 10th in goals per game at 11.25 and sixth in goals against at 7.25.
Attackmen Chris Boland and Zach Palmer were Pietramala's two biggest scorers in 2011 and return for their senior and junior campaigns, respectively. Boland, a Boys' Latin alumnus, paced the squad from Homewood with 54 points (34 goals, 20 assists). Palmer had 22 goals, led the Blue Jays with 25 assists and was fourth in shooting efficiency at 45.8 percent.
John Greeley, John Ranagan and Rob Guida headline the middie corps. Ranagan and Greeley are both juniors and ended the year with 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) and 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists), while Guida, a sophomore, had 12 tallies and a helper. Who will take faceoffs, which Matt Dolente handled expertly last year, is a still developing matter.
The entire starting defense -- Tucker Durkin, Jack Reilly and Chris Lightner -- is back to protect junior Pierce Bassett.
Continuing the storied tradition of Blue Jays netminders, Basset (7.07 goals-against average, 57 save percentage) appears ready to assert himself as a championship-caliber netminder.
No. 1 Virginia
2011 Record: 13-5
Head Coach: Dom Starsia
Who else but the defending national champions could occupy the top slot?
Seven of 10 starters and 32 of 41 letter winners are back to defend their title. Of course, the first name on everyone's lips is Teewaarton Trophy recipient Steele Stanwick. The senior from Loyola Blakefield is one of the nation's best players, and draws attention wherever he is on the field. Last season, he finished with 32 goals, while assisting another 38 others.
Stanwick won't be opposing goaltenders' only worry. Classmate Chris Bocklet netted 44 goals, to go along with five assists. Matt White had 20 goals and seven assists.
Redshirt senior Colin Briggs (29 goals, 12 assists) and junior Nick O'Reilly had eight goals and 13 assists. Ryan Benincasa was solid at X, claiming 50 percent of his draws. Chris LaPierre collected 92 ground balls. LSM Chris Clements had 46.
Scott McWilliams and Matt Lovejoy are defensive stalwarts and will help protect a cage that will feature a newcomer following the graduation of starter Adam Ghitelman. Junior Rob Fortunato had a 9.58 goals-against average and 54.3 save percentage in nine appearances.
Posted Feb. 10, 2012